“Censorship Rampage”: Facebook Admits To Deleting Accounts For Israeli and US Govt

The social media giant has a new problematic target: Palestine


Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, co-founding editor for The Intercept, released a stunning follow-up article to a 2016 story he published regarding collusion between the administrators at Facebook and far-right Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, which have since lead to further censorship and deletion of pro-Palestinian accounts.

While the current accounts removed have not been detailed, Greenwald cited a 2016 report from the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms which give an estimate as to how extensive the censorship efforts have reached.

From The Intercept:

“Pages and personal accounts that were filtered and blocked: Palestinian Dialogue Network (PALDF.net) Gaza now, Jerusalem News Network, Shihab agency, Radio Bethlehem 2000, Orient Radio Network, page Mesh Heck, Ramallah news, journalist Huzaifa Jamous from Abu Dis, activist Qassam Bedier, activist Mohammed Ghannam, journalist Kamel Jbeil, administrative accounts for Al Quds Page, administrative accounts Shihab agency, activist Abdel-Qader al-Titi, youth activist Hussein Shajaeih, Ramah Mubarak (account is activated), Ahmed Abdel Aal (account is activated), Mohammad Za’anin (still deleted), Amer Abu Arafa (still deleted), Abdulrahman al-Kahlout (still deleted).”

As explained by Greenwald, the justice minister, who is no stranger to authoritarian statements of pro-illegal settlements and one state solutions regarding Israel’s relationship with Palestine, gave the social media giant the options of either “voluntarily compliance with Israeli deletion orders”, amounting to what he describes as a “censorship rampage”, or state-sponsored bans and fines for failure to cooperate.

Since those late-December meetings took place, both Shaked and unnamed representatives for Facebook are publicly touting the meetings, and what has become of them, to be a “success”.

In fact, it was Shaked herself who praised the company she once criticised for their eventual “cooperation”, stating they approved 95% of Israel’s 158 requests to remove content deemed too problematic and “incitement [of violence]”. With Facebook’s publicly available request records proving her to be accurate.

“I personally really believe in freedom of speech,” Ms. Shaked told The New York Times in an interview cited by Greenwald. “But when you’re calling to kill someone or when you’re calling for terrorist attacks, it’s violence. I’m not going to try to remove the words ‘Free Palestine.’ But if they’re showing how to stab Jews, that should be removed.”

She later giving a backhanded compliment that the site should take initiative by conducting the monitoring, judgement and removal themselves rather than merely “wait for complaints.”

An unnamed spokesperson for Facebook then released a statement to the more left-lenaing Al Jazeera:

“A Facebook delegation visited Israel as part of our ongoing dialogue with policymakers and experts around the world to keep terrorist content off our platform and support counter-speech initiatives.

As to why they refused to give their name, nobody can say, but these actions resulting in bad PR for the company/individual could easily be one of them.

Why, you say? Well, consider how these incitements, which is already a broad and subjective matter up for interpretation, turn out to be silly, be it distasteful, false flags. With Palestinians posts being irrily similar content to their Israeli counterparts.

Whereas unremoved Israeli accounts boast “what an orgasm to see the Israeli Defense Forces bomb buildings in Gaza with children and families at the same time”, and Shaked’s page remains online despite genocide incitements towards Palestinians in 2014, on the platform itself, it was the page of the political party, Fatah, followed by millions, which was briefly removed for having posted a picture of former leader Yasser Arafat openly carrying a rifle:

With Facebook’s once again unnamed spokesperson calling the removal a “mistake” since the picture broke no community policies.

Remind me, where exactly are those pro-open carry, second amendment absolutists, again? I can’t recall seeing Arafat on The Rubin Report.

And this isn’t some college campus with purple headed feminists gone radically array. We’re talking about a country where, according to a study from The Independent, over 96 percent of Palestinians say they use Facebook to “just to follow the news.”

As Greenwald accurately puts it:

“That means that Israeli officials have virtually unfettered control over a key communications forum of Palestinians.”

Greenwald then ventures out to the United States’ role in censorship, which is fair considering the site is a Silicon Valley darling. Earlier last week, journalists noticed that both the Facebook and Instagram accounts of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, known for his genocidal imprisonment of the LGBT, were suddenly removed.

The rationale behind this move, as pointed out by The Guardian, is wildly inconsistent from political leader to political leader. The site claims the removal was due to the figure being the target of US sanctions under “The Magnitsky Act”, but is this the same with Nicolás Maduro, the leader of socialist Venezuela? Or Syria’s own Bashar al-Assad, the latest target media drummed up as unquestionably responsible for a chemical attack (which is still up for debate)? Of course not.

It can be interpreted as a power play, and power being wielded inconsistently is, to steal this word from the progressives, utterly problematic.

Thanks for reading!

Bailey T. Steen is a journalist, editor, artist and film critic based in Victoria, Australia, but is also Putin’s Puppeton occasion.

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